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420

V T T

P U B L I C A T I O N S

Holger Forsn & Veikko Tarvainen

Accuracy and
functionality
of hand held wood
moisture content meters

TECHNICAL RESEARCH CENTRE OF FINLAND

ESPOO 2000

VTT PUBLICATIONS 420

Accuracy and functionality of hand


held wood moisture content meters
Holger Forsn & Veikko Tarvainen
VTT Building Technology

Revised edition

TECHNICAL RESEARCH CENTRE OF FINLAND


ESPOO 2000

ISBN 9513855813 (soft back ed.)


ISSN 12350621 (soft back ed.)
ISBN 9513855821 (URL: http://www.inf.vtt.fi/pdf/)
ISSN 14550849 (URL: http://www.inf.vtt.fi/pdf/)
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Technical editing Leena Ukskoski

Otamedia Oy, Espoo 2000

Forsn, Holger & Tarvainen, Veikko. Accuracy and functionality of hand held wood moisture
content meters. Espoo 2000. Technical Research Centre of Finland, VTT Publications 420. 79 p.
+ app. 17 p.
Keywords

wood, timber, moisture meters, moisture content, measuring instruments,


reliability, tests, electrical resistance, temperature, species correction, pine,
spruce, birch, oak, beech, alder, larch

Abstract
The main task of VTT in this EU project was to test and improve the reliability
and performance of wood moisture content meters. A total of 16 resistance type
and 6 capacitance type hand-held moisture meters were included in the test
series.
Test samples of the most important European species (pine, spruce, birch, oak,
beech, alder, larch) were obtained from all over Europe. Altogether a total of
about 2,700 specimens were used for comparative testing. The specimens were
conditioned to three different moisture content levels (8 - 10%, 12 - 14% and 16
- 18%). The moisture gradients of the test materials were low due to the
extensive conditioning period of at least 1 year.
The effects of various factors such as moisture content, species, and temperature
on the electrical resistance of conditioned wood were studied. The resistance
moisture content curves for different species from different countries were
determined for the conditioned wood material in the laboratory. The regression
model used for the resistance moisture content curves in this work was as
follows:
log log( R + 1) = a u + b
where a and b are constants for the given type of wood.
The species-specific corrections (resistance curves) are quite similar for
different countries. Only the resistance curve of Maritime Pine differs clearly
from the other resistance curves for the pine species originating from the
different countries.

In the temperature test, measurement of the electrical resistance was performed


at temperatures of 10 C, +5 C, +20 C, +40 C, +60 C and +70C.
Resistance (R) as a function of moisture content (u) and wood temperature (T)
was determined by regression analysis as follows:
log(log(R ) + 2) = 0.00147 T 0.0262 u 0.000158T u + 1.075
From the above mentioned equation, the equation for temperature correction can
be calculated when the resistance curve at a constant temperature (20 C) is
known from the following equation:
ucorr =

0.00147T 1n(10) + 1n(exp( aumeas 1n (10) + b1n (10)) + 1) 1.0751n(10)


1n(10)(0.000158T + 0.0262)

where
ucorr

is temperature-corrected moisture content (%)

umeas is moisture meter reading (%)


T

is wood temperature (C)

a, b

is constants for given wood type.

The wood temperature corrections are about 0.1 - 0.15%-units/C which has to
be considered when the moisture content of wood is measured at temperatures
other than 20 C.
The other properties of wood such as sapwood/heartwood and density does not
have a significant impact on the resistance values. There were no significant
resistance differences due to type of the electrodes, distances between
electrodes and the different measuring directions.
The commercial instruments for the determination of wood moisture content
were tested with respect to accuracy, reliability and ergonomy. The moisture
meters were tested both under laboratory and industrial conditions. Most of the
resistance meters showed a systematic deviation from the actual moisture
content because of incorrect MC-resistance curves. When the MC was lower

than 10%, the readings of all the resistance meters tended to creep. The
accuracy of the MC meters (95% confidence interval) in laboratory tests with
well-conditioned test material is about 1.5 2.5% units for the resistance
meters and about 2.5% 4.0% units for the capacitance meters. The
corresponding accuracy of MC meters in industry test is about 2.0% 5.0%
units for the resistance meters and about 3.0% 5.0% units for the
capacitance meters. Other factors affecting the accuracy of the moisture meters
were also studied for this report. Resistance type moisture meters have to be
compensated for variation caused by wood species and wood temperature. The
readings of capacitance type moisture meters have to be compensated for wood
species and are influenced by the varying density of the wood species.

Preface
The project "Testing and improvement of the performance of MC measuring
instruments for drying quality control" is a part of the EU project IMCOPCO
"Improvement of Moisture Content Measuring Systems and Testing Strategies
to Enable Precise Process and Quality Control of Kiln Dried Timber", which
belongs to EC's 4th framework programme (SMT4-CT95-2023). The research
work has been financed by EC and Centre for Metrology and Accreditation
(MIKES) and Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT). Their financial
support is gratefully acknowlegded.
The EC contact person was Mrs. I. de Froidmont-Grtz. The participants in the
IMCOPCO-project were follows:
Partner 1
Partner 2
Partner 3
Partner 4

Johannes Welling
(project coordinator)
Jan Buchter
Sverre Tronstad
Sjur H. Fltaker
Bjrn Esping

Partner 5

Holger Forsn
Veikko Tarvainen

Partner 6

Daniel Aleon

Partner 7

Wolfgang Gard
Michel Riepen
Helmuth Resch

Partner 8
Parner 9

Arnold Brookhuis
Pieter Rozema

Bundesforschungsanstalt fr
Forst- und Holzwirtschaft
Danish Technological Institute
Norwegian Institute of Wood
Technology
Swedish Institute for Wood
Technology
Technical Research centre of
Finland, Building Technology

(D)
(DK)
(N)
(S)
(FIN)

Centre Technique du Bois et de


L'Ameublement
TNO Centre for Timber Research

(F)

Institut fr Holzforschung der


Universitt fr Bodenkultur
Brookhuis Micro-Electronics

(A)

(NL)

(NL)

The Imcopco project is subdivided into 5 task programmes. This report deals
with task 3 of the IMCOPCO-project.

The most common commercial moisture content meters that are available and
used by the European woodworking industry and timber trade were tested in this
project. All partners in the IMCOPCO Group have sent test specimens for the
project from their respective countries. The tests were performed both at VTT's
laboratory and at sawmills.
We wish to express our sincere thanks to all the persons involved in this project.

Espoo September 5, 2000

Holger Forsn

Veikko Tarvainen

Contents
Abstract................................................................................................................. 3
Preface .................................................................................................................. 7
1. Introduction and aim of the task ................................................................... 11
2. Instruments, test material and measuring conditions.................................... 12
2.1 Measuring instruments ......................................................................... 12
2.1.1 Resistance measuring instruments ............................................ 12
2.1.2 Moisture content meters............................................................ 13
2.2 Test material and conditioning............................................................. 15
2.2.1 Procuring of the test material .................................................... 15
2.2.2 Preparation and conditioning .................................................... 18
2.2.3 Conditions in laboratory and industrial testing......................... 22
2.2.4 Laboratory tests......................................................................... 22
2.2.5 Industrial tests ........................................................................... 22
3. Effect of different factors on the electrical resistance of wood ................... 24
3.1 Effect of the species and species correction......................................... 24
3.2 Effect of temperature............................................................................ 28
3.3 Resistance values of sapwood and heartwood ..................................... 30
3.4 Effect of the type of electrodes ............................................................ 31
3.5 Resistance values at different distances between the electrodes.......... 33
3.6 Resistance values in different measuring directions ............................ 34
3.7 Effect of the density on electrical resistance........................................ 35
4. Confidence intervals for MC resistance regression curves .......................... 36
5. Capasitance type moisture content meter ..................................................... 42
5.1 Dielectric principles ............................................................................. 42
5.2 Dielectric properties of wood............................................................... 44
5.2.1 Effect of moisture content......................................................... 44
5.2.2 Effect of temperature ................................................................ 45
5.2.3 Effect of density........................................................................ 46
5.3 Dielectric moisture meters ................................................................... 47

6. Comparison of the accuracy and reliability of existing moisture content


meters............................................................................................................ 49
6.1 Moisture content measurement of conditioned and unconditioned
wood ..................................................................................................... 49
6.1.1 Laboratory tests with conditioned wood................................... 49
6.1.2 Industrial tests with unconditioned wood ................................. 53
6.1.3 Statistical analysis of the accuracy and reliability
of MC meters ............................................................................ 57
6.2 Effect of the MC meter and wood temperature on the moisture
content readings.................................................................................... 59
6.3 Effect of wood density on the moisture content reading of the MC
meter ..................................................................................................... 62
6.4 Effect of sapwood and heartwood on the meter reading...................... 64
7. Ergonomic test on moisture content meters ................................................. 66
8. Standard method for the use and calibration of hand-held moisture meters 68
8.1 Resistance type MC meters .................................................................. 69
8.2 Capacitance type meters....................................................................... 71
8.3 Checklist for hand-held MC meters ..................................................... 72
9. Proposals for improving hand-held MC meters............................................ 74
9.1 Resistance type MC meters .................................................................. 74
9.2 Capacitance type MC meters................................................................ 74
10. Discussion and summary .............................................................................. 76
References........................................................................................................... 78
APPENDICES

10

1. Introduction and aim of the task


Two different types of hand-held moisture meters for wood are available on the
market. Resistance type moisture meters determine the electrical resistance of
wood. Capacitance type moisture meters employ the large difference in the
dielectric constant between wood and water. While wood moisture content
directly influences electrical resistance, the electrical capacity of a piece of
wood is determined by the mass of the water within the reach of the scan plates
of the capacitance type meter. Resistance type moisture meters have to be
compensated for wood species and wood temperature. The readings of
capacitance type moisture meters have to be compensated for wood density.
With these reservations, both types of instruments produce fairly reliable results
if certain limitations are accepted (Skaar 1988).
Commercial instruments for the determination of wood moisture content were to
be tested with respect to accuracy, reliability and ergonomy. The scope of the
survey covers the performance of hand-held moisture content meters, both
resistance and capacitance type moisture content meters. Hand-held moisture
content meters were tested both under laboratory and industrial conditions.
In this report all the results achieved with commercial MC meters are presented
anonymously. The aim of the project is to establish the state of the art for the
accuracy, reliability and performance of the meters available on the market and
used in normal industrial conditions and to seek to improve them in response to
the results obtained.

11

2. Instruments, test material and measuring


conditions
2.1 Measuring instruments
2.1.1 Resistance measuring instruments

The electrical resistance of wood was measured with Hewlett Packards high
resistance meter model 4329A with a resistance measuring range of 5 x 10^5
2 x 10^16 ohm. The measuring specifications were as follows:
Electrode type: insulated steel needles (type Gann)
Measuring voltage: 10 Volts
Measuring temperature: 20 C (excluding point 3.2)
Measuring delay: about 3 - 5 seconds depending on the the resistance stability
time
Measuring depth: 10 - 25 mm (a third of the thickness of the wood)
Measuring direction: mostly parallel to the grain.

The moisture content resistance curves of the different resistance moisture


meters for different species at 20 C were determined using a Calibration
Reference box delivered by Brookhuis. This checkbox had the following
resistance values (see Table 1).
Table 1. Calibration of the reference resistances in the Calibration Reference box (checkbox).
Nominal
values
10 KOhm
100 KOhm
1 MOhm
10 MOhm
100 MOhm
1 GOhm
10 GOhm
100 GOhm

Measured
values
9.9409 KOhm
100.159 KOhm
0.99849 KOhm
9.9826 MOhm
102.013 MOhm
1.04018 GOhm

12

2.1.2 Moisture content meters

Most European suppliers of moisture content measuring instruments were


invited to participate in the test program. More than 15 companies have
provided us with their moisture meters. All in all, VTT tested 22 different
commercial hand-held MC meters (16 resistance meters and 6 capacitance
meters). The following instruments were sent to VTT for testing:
Resistance meters:

Aqua Boy
BES Bollmann combo 200
CSA electronic, Delta - 8N
Delmhorst RDM-2S
FMD moisture meter
FME moisture meter
Gann Hydromette RTU600
Gann Hydromette M2050
Protimeter Timbermaster S
Protimeter Timberlogger
Timber Test FM510
WALTTERI
Vanicek VIVA 12
WSAB Lignomat mini X
WSAB Lignomat (pocket)
WSAB Lignomat TESTER

Capacitance meters:

CSA electronic, Delta 2000H


CSA electronic, Delta 2000S
FMW moisture detector
HYGROTEST FM600
Merlin HM8 - WS13
Wagner L612

13

All the resistance meters were checked with the checkbox (see Table 1) every
2nd month to ensure the repeatability of the measurements. All resistance MC
meters have their own (built-in) resistance curves for different species. The
resistance curves are different for different species depending on the electrical
properties of wood. Figure 1 shows an example of the built-in resistance curves
for different wood species for one of the MC-meters.

100000

Resistance (MOhm)

10000

1000

100
Pine
Spruce
Beech
Birch
Larch
Oak

10

0,1
0

10

15

20

25

30

Moisture meter reading (%)

Figure 1. Resistance curves for different species by one MC-meter.

Due to the different built-in resistance curves, instruments from different


manufacturers show different readings when used on the same wood material
(see Figure 2).

14

100000
MC meter A
MC meter B

10000

Resistance (MOhm)

MC meter C
MC meter D

1000

MC meter E
100

10

0,1
0

10

15

20

25

30

Moisture meter reading (%)

Figure 2. Resistance curves for pine by different MC-meters.

Only two of the capacitance MC meters provided for the tests could be
calibrated. They were calibrated according to the manufacturer's instructions
using calibration blocks supplied with the instruments.

2.2 Test material and conditioning


2.2.1 Procuring of the test material

Test samples of the most important European species (pine, spruce, birch,
beech, oak, alder and larch) were collected from different places all over Europe
in order to include different provenances for each species. The participating
countries delivered samples as follows:

15

Austria; spruce (Picea abies)


Denmark; Douglas (Pseudotsuga menzisii), spruce (Picea abies), beech (Fagus
sylvatica), oak (Quercus petraea), larch (Laris decidua, Laris leptolepis)
Finland; Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), Norway spruce (Picea abies), birch
(Betula pubescens, Betula verrucosa)
France: Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster), oak (Quercus robur)
Germany; pine (Pinus sylvestris), spruce (Picea abies), beech (Fagus sylvatica),
oak (Quercus robur)
Norway: Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), Norway spruce (Picea abies)
Sweden; Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), Norway spruce (Picea abies), birch
(Betula pubescens, Betula verrucosa), alder (Alnus glutinosa).

The test material was collected from different places in the said countries. A
total of about 3000 pieces of wood were used for testing. The test material was
conditioned to three different moisture content levels (8 - 10%, 12 - 14% and
16 - 18%). Table 2 presents the number of specimens of the different species
according to the origin. All the instruments were tested with the different
species.

16

Table 2. Species, origin, number and target moisture content of the test specimens.
MC
Species

Pine

Spruce

Birch

Beech

Oak

Alder

Larch

Origin
Germany Denmark

Norway

Sweden

Finland

90

38

80

12

90

38

16

90

30

12
16

Austria

France

Total

80

30 *

288

80

80

30 *

288

38

80

80

30 *

288

41

30

80

103

22

306

30

41

30

80

103

22

306

30

41

30

80

103

22

306

40

58

98

12

40

58

98

16

40

58

98

19

20

39

12

19

20

39

16

19

20

39

50

20

30

100

12

50

20

30

100

16

50

20

30

100

40

40

12

40

40

16

40

40

21

21

12

21

21

16

21

21

Total

567

306

204

720

* Maritime pine

17

723

66

90

2676

2.2.2 Preparation and conditioning

The tested species were pine, spruce, birch, oak, beech, alder and larch. The
wood samples were divided into three parallel groups which were conditioned to
8 - 10%, 12 - 14% and 16 - 18% moisture content levels. All test material was
green or previously air dried. At first all the test material was dried at a
temperature of 40 C close to the target moisture contents. Then the test material
was conditioned in different climate rooms. The conditions were 20 C/RH 40
% 5 %, 20 C/RH 65 % 5 % and 20 C/RH 85 % 5 %. The moisture
gradients of the test materials were low due to the long conditioning period of at
least 1 year. The average moisture contents and standard deviations for different
moisture classes are presented in Table 3.

18

Table 3. Moisture contents and moisture gradients of the test specmens after conditioning.
Origin of
test
specimen

Moisture class 8 - 10 %
Moisture class 12-14 %
Moisture class 16 - 18 %
Moisture
Moisture
Moisture
Moisture
Moisture
Moisture
gradient
gradient
gradient
AVE Stdev AVE Stdev AVE Stdev AVE Stdev AVE Stdev AVE Stdev

Pine
Finland
9.5
Sweden
9.6
Norway
9.5
Germany 9.7
France
9.9
Nordic
9.5
Spruce
Finland
9.9
Sweden 10.0
Norway
9.8
Denmark 9.7
Germany 10.0
Austria
9.4
Nordic
9.9
Central
9.9
Europe
Birch
Finland
9.1
Sweden
9.0
Nordic
9.0
Oak
Denmark 9.8
Germany 9.7
France
9.9
Central
9.8
Europe
Beech
Denmark 9.1
Germany 9.4
Central
9.3
Europe
Alder
Sweden
8.9
Larch
Denmark 9.9

0.3
0.3
0.2
0.2
0.5
0.3

0.41
0.22
0.48
0.32
0.56
0.34

0.29
0.14
0.26
0.31
0.31
0.25

12.8
13.1
12.8
13.3
13.5
12.9

0.3
0.5
0.3
0.4
0.3
0.4

0.53
0.29
0.60
0.51
0.63
0.43

0.49
0.23
0.43
0.33
0.32
0.39

17.5
17.3
17.4
17.6
17.8
17.4

0.8
0.5
0.8
0.9
0.5
0.7

0.71
0.73
0.49
0.36
0.69
0.69

0.38
0.42
0.29
0.27
0.35
0.39

0.2
0.2
0.1
0.2
0.2
0.1
0.2
0.2

0.38
0.28
0.29
0.34
0.19
0.41
0.33
0.32

0.31
0.53
0.18
0.24
0.17
0.21
0.40
0.22

13.4
13.6
13.2
14.0
14.2
13.6
13.4
13.4

0.3
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.2
0.2
0.4
0.4

0.56
0.27
0.70
0.28
0.56
0.89
0.44
0.48

0.50
0.26
0.30
0.24
0.25
0.29
0.41
0.34

18.0
18.0
18.1
18.4
18.2
18.4
18.0
18.0

0.4
0.3
0.7
0.8
0.3
0.7
0.4
0.4

1.10
0.80
0.89
0.63
0.45
0.80
0.96
0.63

0.56
0.39
0.85
0.42
0.29
0.54
0.54
0.42

0.3
0.2
0.3

0.21
0.28
0.24

0.12
0.21
0.17

12.3
12.4
12.3

0.3
0.4
0.3

0.26
0.49
0.38

0.18
0.33
0.28

18.2
19.1
18.6

1.2
0.6
1.1

0.82
1.82
1.24

0.71
0.61
0.71

0.3
0.3
0.2
0.3

0.34
0.32
0.40
0.35

0.22
0.15
0.18
0.18

13.1
13.5
13.0
13.3

0.6
0.3
0.2
0.4

0.16
0.46
0.19
0.27

0.12
0.21
0.07
0.20

17.6
17.3
17.2
17.3

0.9
0.2
0.3
0.5

0.58
1.02
0.58
0.73

0.40
0.30
0.30
0.38

0.1
0.1
0.2

0.31
0.26
0.28

0.19
0.22
0.20

13.1
13.8
13.4

0.3
0.3
0.4

0.21
0.27
0.24

0.19
0.15
0.17

17.9
17.4
17.6

0.4
0.3
0.4

0.73
0.89
0.81

0.38
0.31
0.34

0.2

0.44

0.18

12.1

0.2

0.39

0.31

16.4

0.4

0.50

0.34

0.3

0.28

0.16

13.5

0.3

0.51

0.41

17.3

0.4

0.63

0.48

19

The standard deviation for all test specimen groups was mostly very low. The
average moisture gradients, the MC difference between the surface and centre of
a test sample, are less than 0.5%.
The average density of all test specimens was measured. Both weight and
volume were determined at the same MC (actual density). Then the actual
density was recalculated into other densities. The following density expressions
were used (Kollman & Ct 1968):

Density (12, 12) = weight at 12% MC /volume at 12% MC (commonly used in


Central Europe)

Density (0, 28) = oven dry weight/green volume (Nordic countries)

Density (0, 12) = oven dry weight/volume at 12% MC (USA).

The average densities of each species by country in the different moisture


conditions are presented in Table 4.

20

Table 4. Density of the test specimens in different moisture conditions.


Density (12, 12) (kg/m3) Density (0, 28) (kg/m3)

Density (0, 12) (g/cm3)

Species

Country

Average

Standard
deviation

Average

Standard
deviation

Average

Standard
deviation

Pine

Finland
Sweden

520
496

62
62

433
413

51
51

0.464
0.443

0.055
0.055

Norway

458

58

381

48

0.391

0.049

Germany

511

68

425

57

0.456

0.061

France

624

61

519

51

0.557

0.054

Nordic

500

65

416

54

0.443

0.060

Finland

463

49

387

41

0.413

0.044

Sweden

477

40

399

33

0.426

0.035

Norway

448

42

374

35

0.400

0.038

Denmark

449

68

376

57

0.401

0.060

Germany

461

68

385

57

0.411

0.061

Austria

452

39

378

32

0.404

0.035

Nordic

465

46

389

38

0.416

0.041

Central
Europe
Finland

454

62

379

52

0.405

0.056

629

38

517

31

0.562

0.034

Sweden

649

48

533

39

0.580

0.043

Nordic

638

43

524

36

0.569

0.039

Denmark

680

36

564

30

0.607

0.032

Germany

656

51

544

42

0.586

0.046

France

749

30

621

25

0.669

0.027

Central
Europe
Denmark

689

59

571

49

0.615

0.053

706

35

569

28

0.630

0.031

Germany

678

40

547

32

0.606

0.036

693

40

558

32

0.618

0.035

Alder

Central
Europe
Sweden

512

35

422

29

0.457

0.031

Larch

Denmark

485

52

405

44

0.433

0.047

Spruce

Birch

Oak

Beech

21

Variations in density in the one and same piece of sawn timber can by quite high
due the unhomogeneity of wood. The standard deviation was about 50 kg/m3
which is quite normal.
2.2.3 Conditions in laboratory and industrial testing

Electrical resistance was measured in laboratory conditions. All the moisture


meters, resistance and capacitance type meters alike, were tested under both
laboratory and industrial conditions. The test material in the laboratory tests was
conditioned wood and in the industrial tests unconditioned wood.
2.2.4 Laboratory tests

The effect of different factors on the electrical resistance of wood was studied
with conditioned test material. The "basic" resistance measurement at a constant
temperature (20 C) was performed on all test specimens. The "special"
resistance measurement (temperature, sapwood/heartwood, type of electrodes,
distances between electrodes, measuring direction, density) was performed on
Scots pine using at least 16 specimens for every moisture class (8 - 10%, 12 14% and 16 - 18%).
In the laboratory, the accuracy and reliability of all moisture meters (both
resistance and capacitance type moisture meter) were tested with conditioned
test material. With the resistance moisture meters, at least 20 measurements
were made in every origin, species, and moisture class group. The capacitance
meters were tested with all the test materials because this method is very quick.
Moisture meter readings were compared with the actual moisture content of
wood which was determined by oven dry method. The measuring temperature of
both the moisture meters and the test material was 20 C. The electrodes were
inserted in the direction of the grain. The measurements were conducted in
complieance with the manufacturer's instructions.
2.2.5 Industrial tests

All moisture content meters were tested also under industrial conditions. The
material for this test (a total of 300 pieces) was provided in the form of 10
packages supplied by sawmills. The measurement position was chosen on the

22

outer face of the sawn timber. The measurement depth with resistance MC
meters should be 0.3 times the thickness of sawn timber, at a distance of 0.3
meters from either end and at a distance of 0.3 times the width from one edge
according to prEN 13183-2 (European standard prEN 13183-2). With the
capacitance MC meters, the moisture content measurement was made according
to the manufacturer's instructions. Under industrial conditions, the variables
were as follow:

Species:
Thickness of sawn timber:
Width of sawn timber:
Moisture content:
Wood temperature
Kiln types:

Pine and spruce


25 mm - 75 mm
100 mm - 250 mm
7% - 25%
+5 C - +20 C
Progressive and batch

The test material was unconditioned. Different ranges of moisture content and
temperatures were considered. The storage time from drying to moisture
measurement varied from 1 day to 3 month.

23

3. Effect of different factors on the electrical


resistance of wood
3.1 Effect of the species and species correction
The resistance moisture content curves for different species from different
countries were determined in the laboratory according point 2.1.1. In order to
determine the relationship between electrical resistance and moisture content of
the wood, curve fitting was carried out with the measured values. The regression
model used in this study was (Samuelsson 1990):

log(log R + 1) = a u + b

(1)

R = 10 (10 (a u + b) 1

(2)

or rewritten

where R is the resistance (MOhm) and u the moisture content (%).

Curve fitting was carried out with the SPSS software package, which calculated
the coefficients a and b. By setting the coefficients a and b in the equation (2),
the moisture content value can be calculated using the measured resistance.
Figures 3a, 3b and 3c show, by way of an example, the resistance curves and
measuring points for pine from Nordic countries, for spruce from Central
Europe, and for oak from Central Europe. The resistance curves for pine,
spruce, birch, beech, alder and larch from different countries are presented in
Appendix A and summarised in Table 5.

24

100000
R = 10^(10^(ax+b)-1)
a = - 0.039
b = 1.061
2
r = 0.967
n = 596 pcs

Resistance (MOhm)

10000

1000

100

10

0,1
0

10

15

20

25

30

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 3a. Resistance curve for Nordic pine.

100000
R = 10^(10^(ax+b)-1)
a = - 0.036
b = 1.040
2
r = 0.922
n = 277 pcs

Resistance (MOhm)

10000

1000

100

10

0,1
0

10

15

20

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 3b. Resistance curve for spruce from Central Europe.

25

100000
R=10^(10^(ax+b)-1)
a= - 0.047
b=1.079
2
r = 0.975
n = 300 pcs

Resistance (Mohm)

10000

1000

100

10

0,1
0

10

15

20

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 3c. Resistance curve for oak from Central Europe.

In all regression curves the coefficient of determination r2 is very high, over 0.9.
The deviation of the measured resistance values around the regression curve is
considerable because of the large variation in the electrical properties of wood.
At higher moisture contents of wood the deviation decreases.
In Table 5, the resistance curves for pine and spruce seem to be identical for
different countries whereas Maritime pine (France) clearly stand out. When
comparing resistance curves calculated by VTT with the curve from Trtek
(Samuelsson 1990), a minor difference can be detected. In practice, the
difference means that when the resistance is 10 M the moisture content
difference is about 1.0% while at 10 000 M the difference is 0.6%.

26

Table 5. Resistance curves for wood.


Resistance curves

Resistance
10 MOhm 1 000 MOhm 10 000 MOhm

Species

Country

Pieces

r2

Pine

Finland

240

-0.038

1.052

0.958

19.8

11.8

9.3

Sweden

240

-0.039

1.062

0.981

19.5

11.8

9.3

Norway

116

-0.040

1.079

0.964

19.4

11.9

9.5

Germany

270

-0.036

1.015

0.951

19.8

11.5

8.8

France

90

-0.045

1.147

0.973

18.8

12.1

10.0

-0.040

1.055

18.8

11.3

8.9

-0.039

1.061

19.5

11.8

9.3

by Trtek
Nordic
Spruce

596

Finland

309

-0.038

1.080

0.980

20.5

12.6

10.0

Sweden

240

-0.037

1.047

0.985

20.2

12.0

9.4

Norway

90

-0.038

1.072

0.987

20.3

12.4

9.8

Denmark

123

-0.035

1.004

0.891

20.1

11.5

8.7

Germany

90

-0.036

1.043

0.974

20.6

12.2

9.6

Austria

66

0.977

20.5

12.8

10.3

19.5

11.8

9.3

by Trtek

Birch

Oak

0.967

-0.039

1.100

-0.039

1.063

Nordic

639

-0.038

1.067

0.981

20.2

12.2

9.7

Central
Europe
Finland

279

-0.034

1.014

0.892

21.0

12.1

9.3

176

-0.039

1.035

0.961

18.8

11.1

8.6

Sweden

120

-0.038

1.029

0.976

19.2

11.2

8.7

Nordic

296

-0.039

1.032

0.968

18.7

11.0

8.5

Denmark

60

-0.048

1.085

0.975

16.3

10.1

8.0

Germany

150

-0.047

1.081

0.978

16.6

10.2

8.1

France

90

-0.046

1.069

0.979

16.7

10.2

8.0

Central
Europe
Denmark

300

-0.047

1.079

0.975

16.6

10.1

8.1

60

-0.045

1.116

0.963

18.1

11.4

9.3

Germany

57

-0.047

1.123

0.965

17.5

11.1

9.0

117

-0.046

1.119

0.962

17.8

11.2

9.1

Alder

Central
Europe
Sweden

120

-0.044

1.131

0.971

18.9

12.0

9.8

Larch

Denmark

63

-0.042

1.112

0.976

19.3

12.1

9.8

Beech

27

3.2 Effect of temperature


The electrical resistance of wood decreases when its temperature increases
(Skaar 1988). The resistance curves for Pine were determined at temperatures of
10 C, +5 C, + 20 C, +40 C, +60 C and +70 C. The temperature of the
wood specimen was changed in such a way that the moisture content of the
wood remained unchanged by placing the specimen in plastic bags in a freezer,
in a cold room and in a climate chamber where the temperature and the relative
humidity can be adjusted without the MC of the specimens being affected. The
measured resistance values are plotted in Figure 4. the resistance was calculated
as a function of the real MC and temperature as follows using regression
analysis (r2 = 0.97):
log(log(R ) + 2) = 0.00147 T 0.0262 u 0.000158T u + 1.075

(3)

where
R is resistance in MOhm
u is moisture content (%)
T is wood temperature (C).

The MC-resistance curves for Pine at the test temperatures are shown in
Figure 4.

28

1000000
data, T = -10 C, n=48 pcs
data, T = 5 C, n=48 pcs
data, T = 20 C, n=243 pcs
data, T = 40 C, n=108 pcs
data, T = 60 C, n=108 pcs
data, T = 70 C, n=48 pcs
regr., T=-10
regr., T=5
regr., T=20
regr., T=40
regr., T=60
regr., T=70

100000

Resistance (Mohm)

10000
1000
100
10
1
0,1
0

10

15

20

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure. 4. The moisture content - resistance curves for Pine at different temperatures.

The temperature correction, which should be used when making measurements


with resistance type MC meters, is calculated from Figure 4. The temperature
corrections are about 0.1 - 0.15% units / C which has to be noticed when the
moisture content of wood is measured at temperatures other than 20 C. The
results compare well with those given by James (1975) and cited by Skaar
(1988). Most resistance MC meters have an adjustable wood temperature
compensation.
By substituting R from the regression equation (1) for the resistance curve at
constant temperature (20 C) in the regression equation (3) and solving that for
u, the equation for temperature corrected moisture content is obtained as
follows:
ucorr =

0.00147T (1n(10) + 1n(exp( aumeas 1n(10) + b1n (10)) + 1) 1.0751n(10)


1n (10)(0.000158T + 0.0262)

29

(4)

where
ucorr

is temperature-corrected moisture content (%)

umeas is moisture meter reading (%)


T

is wood temperature (C)

= 0.039 (coefficient for Nordic pine, see Table 5)

= + 1.061 (coefficient for Nordic pine, see Table 5).

3.3 Resistance values of sapwood and heartwood


Resistance values of sapwood and heartwood (Pine) were measured with
conditioned wood specimens. The resistance values and regression curves for
sapwood and heartwood are shown in Figure 5.

100000
heartwood

M = lg10(lg10(R)+1)
M = ax+b
a = -0.037
b = 1.062
r2 = 0.962
n = 87 pcs

Resistance (MOhm)

10000

1000

Measured heartwood
Calculated heartwood

sapwood

100

Measured sapwood

M = lg10(lg10(R)+1)
M = ax+b
a = -0.034
b = 1.014
r2 = 0.962
n = 87 pcs

10

Calculated sapwood

1
0

10

15

20

25

30

Moisture content (%)

Figure 5. Measured MC resistance values and calculated regression curves for Pine sapwood and
heartwood.

Figure 5 illustrates the relationship between the resistance values of sapwood


and heartwood. The moisture content difference, when the measured resistance
is the same, is only about 0.5% units (see Table 6), although the resistance
30

values at an MC of 8% are twice as high for heartwood than sapwood. At high


moisture contents, the differences in resistance are insignificant.
Table 6. Calculated moisture (a) and resistance values (b) for Pine sapwood and heartwood.
Resistance

a) Moisture content, %
Sapwood

Heartwood

10 MOhm

21.0

20.6

1000 MOhm

12.1

12.4

10000 MOhm

9.3

9.8

Moisture

b) Resistance, MOhm

content

Sap wood

Heart wood

8%

33200

68300

12 %

1100

1400

16 %

90

90

3.4 Effect of the type of electrodes


The effect of the type of electrode used was tested with 5 different commercial
electrode types. For this test, conditioned Pine heartwood specimens were used.
The tested electrode types are shown in Figure 6.

31

Type A

Type B

Type C

Type D

Type E

Figure 6. Different electrode types used in commercial MC meters.

Figure 6 shows the most usual types of electrodes. All the tested electrodes were
insulated. The top of the different electrode types seems to have the strongest
effect on the resistance values. The measurement results are shown in graphic
form in Figure 7.

100000

Resistance (MOhm)

10000
1000
Electrode type A

100

Electrode type B
10
Electrode type C
Electrode type D

Electrode type E
0,1
0

10

15

20

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 7. Effect of type of electrodes on resistance.

32

25

30

The B electrodes with a long and sharp top differ most from the other electrodes
in Figure 7. The biggest difference between the different electrodes is about 3%
points at highest tested MC (16 - 18%). With high resistance values at lower
moisture contents the difference decreases. For the other electrodes the
differences are not significant. Because the shape of the electrodes has the same
effect on the measured resistance value, it is highly recommended that a
MCmeter only be used with the electrode type provided by the supplier of the
meter.

3.5 Resistance values at different distances between the


electrodes
The distance between electrodes varies with different moisture meters. The
effect of the distance between the electrodes was studied using the following
distances: 20 mm, 30 mm, 60 mm, and 120 mm. The measuring direction was
parallel to grain. The results are shown in Figure 8.

100000

Resistance (MOhm)

10000

1000

100

10

1
6

10

12

14

16

18

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 8. Effect of measuring distance between electrodes 20 mm, 30 mm, 60 mm, and 120 mm.

33

The distance had no effect on the moisture content value (see Figure 8). The
four calculated regression curves do not differ from one another. The results are
equivalent to NTI (Apneseth & Hay 1992). In principle, the distance between
the electrodes can theoretically be as large as technically feasible. Of course,
with normal pin distance, the MC is measured only locally. As the MC in the
wood varies, the measured value is somewhere between the minimum and
maximum MC value in the wood between the electrodes.

3.6 Resistance values in different measuring directions


The resistance measurements were performed parallel with and perpendicular to
grain. The electrode type was Gann. The effect of the measuring direction can
be seen from the calculated MC resistance regression curves shown in Figure 9.

100000

Resistance (MOhm)

10000

1000

100

10

1
6

10

12

14

16

18

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 9. Resistance curves by measuring in two directions: parallel and perpendicular to grain.

There was no difference between the measuring directions. The resistance


curves are identical in both directions: parallel with and perpendicular to grain.
This corresponds to the findings of Trtek (Samuelsson 1990) and NTI
(Apneseth & Hay 1992).

34

3.7 Effect of the density on electrical resistance


The effect of density on the electrical resistance of wood is shown in Figure 10
for three different density classes. Nordic Pine was divided into three density
(12.12) groups (<450 kg/m3, 450 - 550 kg/m3, >550 kg/m3). The MC resistance
curves were calculated separately for each group.

100000

Resistance (MOhm)

10000

1000
Density (12,12) < 450 kg/m3
Density (12,12) 450-550 kg/m3
Density (12,12) > 550 kg/m3

100

10

0
0

10

15

20

25

30

Moisture content (%)

Figure 10. Resistance curves for Nordic Pine in different density classes.

Density had no significant influence on resistance values. All the three


resistance curves are virtually identical. Similar results were obtained by
Keylwerth and Noack (cited by Vermaas 1982).

35

4. Confidence intervals for MC resistance


regression curves
Due to the large variations in properties within the same species and even in the
same piece of wood, the electrical resistance of wood varies at constant wood
moisture content as well. Wood moisture content, too, varies slightly in a single
piece of wood despite extended conditioning in constant climate. Thus the
variation in MC resistance values around the calculated regression curves may
be quite large.
For the analysis of confidence intervals, the SPSS Statistical Package was used.
The 95 % confidence intervals were defined for the MC resistance curves. The
assumptions used in the regression analysis were as follows:
the observations are independent
the distribution of the residuals is approximately normal with constant variance
the relationship between the dependent (transformed) and the independent
variable is linear.

The assumptions concerning the distribution and the variance of the residuals
are particularly important for the calculation of the confidence intervals.
The variable used, x = log(logR + 1), satisfies these assumptions. One deviation
curve is shown by way of an example in Figure 11.

36

80

60

40

Frequency

20
Std. Dev = 1.00
Mean = 0.00
N = 582.00

3.

2.

2.

1.

1.

25

75

25

75

25

5
.7

.2

.7

.2

.7

.2

.7

5
.2
5
-.2
5
-.7

-1

-1

-2

-2

-3

-3

Regression Standardized Residual

Figure 11. Deviation of standardized residuals in the regression model used for Nordic Pine at a
moisture content of 8 - 20 %. Resistance values are transformed by using the transformation x =
log(log(R)+1).

To ensure that the calculated confidence intervals are acceptable, a residual


analysis was also performed. Figure 12 shows the residuals for Scots pine.

37

4
3

Regression Standardized Residual

1
0
-1

-2
-3
-4
-2.5

-2.0

-1.5

-1.0

-.5

0.0

.5

1.0

1.5

Regression Standardized Predicted Value


Figure 12. Residual scatter for MC electrical resistance regression curve for Nordic Scots Pine when x
= log(log(R)+1) is used as a variable.

The scatter of residuals is not fully perfect, but good enough too make it
possible to use the calculated confidence intervals for the accuracy analysis of
MC resistance values.
On the basis of the measured MC-resistance values, the upper and lower limit
curves of a confidence level of 95 % for the calculated resistance curves were
calculated and plotted for some species in Figures 13a - 13c. The confidence
intervals for all the resistance curves given in Table 5 are presented in Table 7.

38

1000000

Resistance (MOhm)

100000

10000

1000

100
model
2.5 % conf. interval
97.5 conf. interval
data

10

1
8

10

12

14

16

18

20

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 13a. Relationship between moisture content and wood resistance for Nordic Pine at 95%
confidence limits.

1000000

Resistance (MOhm)

100000

10000

1000

100
model
2.5 % conf. interval
97.5 % conf. interval
data

10

1
8

10

12

14

16

18

20

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 13b. Relationship between moisture content and wood resistance for Central European Spruce
at 95% confidence limits.

39

10000

Resistance (MOhm)

1000

100

10

model
2.5 % conf.interval
97.5 % conf. interval
data

1
8

10

12

14

16

18

20

Actual moisture conetent of wood (%)

Figure 13c. Relationship between moisture content and wood resistance for Central European Oak at
95% confidence limits.

Table 7. Confidence intervals for the MC resistance curves (Table 5) of the tested species.
Species

Origin

Pine

Nordic
Germany
France

Spruce

Nordic
Central Europe

0.9
2.0

Birch

Nordic

1.4

Oak

Central Europe

1.0

Beech

Central Europe

1.3

Alder

Sweden

1.1

Larch

Denmark

1.0

40

95 % confidence
intervals,
% units
1.2
1.4
1.1

The confidence intervals indicate only one aspect of the accuracy of MC


measurements. The difference between the real and measured moisture content
is not included in these confidence intervals.
These confidence intervals can be used when the wood to be measured is well
conditioned, its temperature is accurately known and the resistance curve
programmed into the MC-meter is highly suitable for the material to be
measured, i.e. deviation from real MC value is zero. Normally, it is not possible
to measure the wood MC more accurately than indicated in Table 7. But when
the regression curves are determined more locally, for instance for Scots pine
from Eastern Finland, a higher degree of accuracy can be achieved. The
confidence interval in Table 7 is about 1.2% for most species. The spread was
biggest (2.0 %) for spruce from Central Europe, where the wood properties
vary very much.
The measurement accuracy of all the tested instruments with conditioned and
unconditioned sawn timber is presented in Section 6.

41

5. Capasitance type moisture content meter


This chapter is a resume from the text book Skaar pp. 237 - 262 (Skaar 1988).
The capacitance type hand-held MC meters use the relationship between
moisture content and the dielectric properties of wood and the water contained
in it. The dielectric properties of wood change in propertion to its moisture
content. They are normally measured using alternating current (AC) techniques.
The dielectric properties are also affected by other parameters such as wood
density, temperature, grain orientation, and AC frequency.

5.1 Dielectric principles


The static dielectric constant of an insulating material such as wood can be
defined by considering Figure 14 a. This shows two thin parallel plates, each
with an area A and separeted by a distance d, which is small compared with the
value A.

Figure 14. Schematic diagram illustrating charge accumulation on two plates each with an area A, and
distance d apart showing: a) a voltage Vv in vacuum, b) a lower voltage Vw with a wood dielectric (Skaar
1988).

The capacitance Cw of the wood in Figure 14 b can be expressed as follows


(Skaar 1988)
C w = ( Ae w /(11.3d )) 10 12 farads

42

(5)

where
A is area of the plates
d is distance between the plates
ew is dielectric constant of wood.
The dielectric constant ew of a wood specimen can be calculated from equation
(5) if Cw can be measured. It is difficult to measure Cw for wood using direct
current techniques, and therefore alternating current measurements are generally
used.
The dielectric constant is a measure of the polarization of atoms and molecules
in the wood under the influence of an applied voltage V or voltage gradient E.
At least four different kinds of polarization may occur in wood, each of which
may contribute to the dielectric constant, depending on the frequency f of
measurement. These are electronic, atomic, dipole and interfacial polarizations.
The first two are of interest primarily from the viewpoint of optical and infrared
spectroscopy, respectively. The last two are generally measured using electrical
methods. The dipole mechanism involves the use of permanent dipoles while the
other three are caused by induced polarization.
Figure 15 shows how the dielectric constant of an idealized material varies with
the frequency (log scale). The two regions of most importance for measuring the
moisture content of wood, and also for heating wood electrically, are those in
which the dipole and interfacial mechanisms are dominant.

43

Figure 15. Diagram showing the dielectric constant and loss tangent as functions of applied frequency
(log scale) from power to optical frequencies, for a dielectric material (Skaar 1988).

5.2 Dielectric properties of wood


5.2.1 Effect of moisture content
The dielectric constant of wood increases with moisture content. When moisture
content increases the frequency of the electric field decreases. Figure 16 shows
that both ' and tan generally increase strongly with increasing moisture
content at a given frequency at 20 C.

44

Figure 16. Dielectric constant (') and loss factor (tan ), of European spruce at 20 C, as a function of
frequency (log scale) at several wood moisture contents (Skaar 1988).

5.2.2 Effect of temperature


The dielectric constant for wood increases with increasing temperature except at
very high moisture contents where the reverse can occur. Figure 17 shows
curves of electric constant (') and loss factor (tan ) against frequency for
Tanagi (Salix jessonensis) wood at 15% moisture content and several
temperatures.

Figure 17. Curves of dielectric constant ' and of tan in relation to the logarithm of frecuency at
several temperatures, for wood of Tanagi (Salix jessoensis) at 15% moisture conent (Skaar 1988).

45

It is clear that the dispersion peaks shift to higher frequencies with an increase
in temperature. The loss factor is not a simple function of temperature. It can
both increase and decrease with increasing temperature depending on the
frequency and moisture content.
5.2.3 Effect of density
The dielectric constant of the gross wood also increases with moisture content,
but not to the same extent as that of the cell wall. The increase is greater for
more dense than for less dense woods, as Figure 18 indicates. For example, from
Figure 18, ' doubles between 0% and 25%. moisture content for wood whose
oven-dry specific gravity G0 is 0.1, but quadruples over the same moisture range
for wood G0 = 0.6, at 1 MHz. This is because the cell wall volume is greater for
the more dense woods, and therefore the relative contribution of the cell wall is
greater than for the low density woods.

Figure 18. Curves showing increase of dielectric constant ' with increasing wood moisture content and
specific gravity (Skaar 1988).

46

It has been established that the loss tangent (tan ) of wood also increases with
increasing wood density. Its variation with wood moisture content is more
complex, however, as Figure 19 indicates. This shows that tan increases with
wood moisture content in general. However, at 16 MHz, it peaks near the 12%
moisture content before resuming the normal increasing pattern. This is
probably due to the proximity of a region of anomalous dispersion at this
combination of frequency, moisture content, and temperature.

Figure 19. Loss tangent (tan ) curves in relation to wood moisture content M for three different
frequencies (Skaar 1988).

5.3 Dielectric moisture meters


There are two basic types of dielectric moisture meters, the capacitance type
which essentially measures the dielectric constant and the power-loss type
which measures the combined effect of dielectric constant and loss factor.
The capacitance type of moisture meter responds primarily to the capacitance
between the electrodes, which is a function of the electrode configuration and
the dielectric constant of the wood. Usually there is an air gap between the
electrodes and the wood surface which reduces the sensitivity of the instrument
to moisture content changes in the wood.
The power-loss type of dielectric moisture meter responds to increases in both
the electric constant and loss factor with increasing wood moisture content. In
other words, it measures the rate of electrical energy dissipation in the wood for

47

a given input energy. This depends on the electrode configuration, which


determines the electromagnetic coupling between the meter and the wood, as
well as on the characteristics of the wood itself. The latter are complex
functions of wood moisture content, temperature, density, stuctural orientation,
frequency, etc.
Despite the many factors, in addition to wood moisture content, that affect
dielectric moisture meter readings, dielectric meters are commonly used for
estimating wood moisture content. They are often used in the wood industry to
indicate wood moisture content during prosessing operations under reasonably
standard conditions of species.
The capacity range of power-loss types moisture meters is from 0 to 25%
moisture content. Unfortunately, the readings depend on the density of the
specimen. Since density varies considerably within a species, and the meters are
calibrated for the average specific gravity of each species, an error may occur.
This error is directly proportional to the difference between the density of the
wood being tested and the value used for calibration. Density determinations of
every sample (so that reading could be corrected) would be too cumbersome for
general use.
Surface moisture greatly affects the readings obtained. Consequently, lumber
with a significant moisture gradient or a wet surface will produce erroneous
results.
Temperature corrections charts or tables are not provided by the manufacturers
of capacitance type meters.

48

6. Comparison of the accuracy and reliability


of existing moisture content meters
The following tests were designed to evaluate how accurately the moisture
content can be determined by the producers and users of dried timber for quality
control purposes when using MC meters. Different ranges of moisture content
and temperatures were considered. The tests were made both with conditioned
wood in the laboratory and unconditioned wood at sawmills.

6.1 Moisture content measurement of conditioned and


unconditioned wood
6.1.1 Laboratory tests with conditioned wood

In connection with the resistance measurements (section 3.1), the accuracy and
the reliability of all hand-held moisture meters (both resistance and capacitance
type moisture meters) were tested with conditioned test material. The tests were
carried out at a room temperature of 20 C.
Figure 20 shows an example, the regression line between the actual MC (oven
dry method) and the MC results obtained with one MC meter. In this example
the species is birch.
Figure 21 shows the moisture content resistance curve obtained with the same
resistance meter for birch. The other curve is the moisture content resistance
determined by VTT for this study.

49

30
Y = ax+b
a = 1.109
b = 0.028
2
r = 0.966
n = 120 pcs

Moisture meter reading (%)

25

20

15

10

0
0

10

15

20

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 20. Regression between actual moisture content and values measure with a moisture meter.

100000

Resistance (MOhm)

10000
1000
100
10
1

VTT
one resistance MC meter

0
0

10

15

20

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 21. Moisture content resistance curves for birch according to VTTs measurements and a
resistance type MC meter.

50

Most meters show a systematic deviation from the actual moisture content.
Many resistance type meters generate incorrect MC resistance curves. For
example, when comparing the resistance curve for birch produced by one
moisture meter with the resistance curve for birch determined by VTT (see
Figure 21), we see that the moisture meter readings is 1 - 2% points higher than
the actual values.
With capacitance type MC meters, the effect of wood density is very high. Thus
the biggest problem with the capacitance meters is that the correct density of the
wood to be measured is not known. For one capacitance type meter, the meter
readings were corrected with the measured wood densities. Figures 22 and 23
show the correlation between the actual MC and moisture meter readings with
and without density compensation.

30
Y = ax+b
a = 0.711
b =3.472
2
r = 0.678
n = 486 pcs

Moisture meter reading (%)

25

20

15

10

0
0

10

15

20

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 22. Moisture meter readings of a capacitance type meter without density compensation
compared with the actual moisture content values.

51

30
Y = ax+b
a = 0.616
b =4.485
2
r = 0.863
n = 486 pcs

Moisture meter reading (%)

25

20

15

10

0
0

10

15

20

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 23. Moisture meter readings of a capacitance type meter with density compensation compared
with the actual moisture content values.

A comparison of Figures 22 and 23 shows the effect of density compensation.


The test results with density compensation are much better than without it.
The quality (planed/unplaned) and deformation (cupping) of sawn timber affects
capacitance type measurements. If there is an airgap between the meter and the
surface of sawn timber the meter shows lower values than if the contact is good.
The following comments are made:

A. Resistance type meters:


1. When the MC is lower than 10%, the readings of all the resistance
meters tend to creep. The electronics and programming code of MC
meters are vital for getting exact results. When MC is measured with
two different MC meters, the results can be different despite identical
programmed resistance curves.

52

2. In most of the meters the resistance curves should be changed (reprogrammed).


3. Temperature compensation is very important for accurate measurements
(see section 3.2).

B. Capacitance meters:
1. The readings are affected by the density of wood.
2. The contact between the meter and wood surface should be good.
3. For some meters the measuring method has an effect on the results. For
example, when MC-meters with exposed electrodes are pressed harder
against the wood surface, the MC values obtained are higher.
4. There was a big difference between the best and worst capacitance
meters.

6.1.2 Industrial tests with unconditioned wood

All the moisture content meters were tested at sawmills. The test material was
dried to normal industrial schedules at temperature levels of 60 - 75 C. The
moisture content of 10 sawn timber packages (representing a total of about 300
pieces of sawn timber) was measured. The background information on the sawn
timber packages such as kiln type, drying schedule, drying date and storage time
was recorded.
The measurement results were analysed separately for every MC meter. Two
examples of the measurements (one resistance and one capacitance type
moisture meter) are presented in Figures 24 and 25, where all the results of
measurements with different variables (see section 2.2.5) are considered.

53

30

y = ax+b
a = 1.084
b = -0.599
2
r = 0.942
n = 276 pcs

Moisture meter reading (%)

25

20

15

10

0
0

10

15

20

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 24. Regression line between actual MC and MC measured with a resistance type MC meter in
industrial test.

30

y = ax+b
a = 0.771
b = 1.157
2
r = 0.762
n = 276 pcs

Moiture meter reading (%)

25

20

15

10

0
0

10

15

20

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 25. Regression line between actual MC and MC measured with a capacitance meter in industrial
test.

54

Figures 24 and 25 from industry tests show a typical spreading of the


measurement results with both types of MC meters. The measurements were
made with great care. The measuring point (depth = 0.3 x thickness; distance
from edge = 0.3 x width) and wood temperature for resistance MC meters were
determined and the wood temperature taken into consideration. Most of the
resistance meters are equipped with a temperature correction device. If this is
not the case, the results have to be corrected with the aid of the temperature
correction table provided by the manufacturer of the MC meter involved. The
effect of temperature on capacitance measurement is very small. The big
spreading of the result (up to 3.0%) for resistance the MC meter is caused by
the MC gradient and MC level. The inaccuracy (up to 5.0%) of the
capacitance type meters is caused by the density variation of the wood. The
accuracy of measurement varies very much, particularly with capacitance MC
meters. The difference between the best and poorest resistance MC meters is not
so big as between the best and poorest capacitance type meters. The best
capacitance MC meters can achieve nearly the same accuracy as an average
resistance MC-meter.
All the industry tests were analysed to determine the percentage of readings that
were within a certain interval around the oven-dry readings (ODMC). The
results of measurements were analysed separately for every MC meter. The
following graph shows the comparison of accuracy (expressed as percentage of
readings within 0.5% and 1.0% of ODMC) of the meters subjected to the
industrial test.

55

Percentage of reading within 0.5 % of ovendry readings


Percentage of reading within 1.0 % of ovendry readings

60

50
Corrected MC values
with density compensation

40

30

20

Resistance MC meters

Calc.

Poorest

Best

Poorest

10

Best

Percentage of readings within 0,5 % and 1,0 % of oven-dry readings

70

Capacitance MC meters

Figure 26. Comparison of accuracy of MC meters in industrial test.

In practice the best accuracy that can be expected is about 60% of the readings
within 1.0% of ODMC. The typical accuracy of a resistance MC meter was
actually about 45 to 50% of readings within 1.0% ODMC. Most of the
capacitance MC meters fall short of these levels by a wide margin. When the
values measured with the best capasitance meters (best in Figure 26) were
corrected with the measured density values, the calculated accuracy came close
to the average level of performance of resistance meters.
The following comments are made:
Major differences between individual MC-meters exist
Capacitance type MC-meters show a much wider variation compared to
electrical resistance type meters
Correct temperature setting is very important for resistant type meters
Correct density setting is essential for capacitance type meters

56

Other major factors affecting the accuracy of measurements are the


dimensions of the sawn timber, the MC level and moisture gradient
Consequently, the correct place (depth, width) where to measure the
average MC varies
Resistance MC meters are most accurate within the range of 8 - 20%
Many capacitance type meters often indicate too low moisture contents
because of low measuring depth and the moisture gradient.

6.1.3 Statistical analysis of the accuracy and reliability of MC meters

All measurement results obtained both in the laboratory and industrial tests were
analysed statistically. In the statistical evaluation procedure every measuring
result has been corrected with the average divergence (meter reading true
value) before the limits for 95% confidence interval are calculated. The used
regression model is linear. An example of the results is given for Nordic pine
and spruce in Table 8. Similar tables for other species are presented in
Appendix B.

57

Table 8. Confidence intervals for different MC-meters. Species tested: Nordic pine and spruce (MC level
9 - 17 % for laboratory tests and 7 - 25 % for industry tests).
Laboratory tests
Types of hand-held

average

95 % confidence

intervals,

divergence

intervals,

divergence

% units

(reading true)

% units

(reading true)

Meter 1

1.2

-0.7

2.1

+1.3

Meter 2

1.2

-0.7

2.1

+1.2

Meter 3

1.2

-0.8

2.0

+1.2

Meter 4

1.3

-1.1

1.7

+0.8

Meter 5

1.3

-0.7

2.1

+0.7

Meter 6

1.3

-0.9

1.8

+0.6

Meter 7

1.3

-0.7

1.9

+0.7

Meter 8

1.3

-1.1

2.4

+1.0

Meter 9

1.4

-1.4

1.9

+0.1

Meter 10

1.4

+0.5

Meter 11

1.4

-1.7

3.5

-1.6

Meter 12 (new set point)

1.5

-1.0

1.9

+1.0

Meter 12 (old set point)

1.5

+0.3

2.4

+2.8

Meter 13

1.5

-2.3

3.3

-0.8

moisture meters

95 % confidence

Industry tests
average

Resistance MC-meters:

Meter 14 (old set point)

1.6

-0.7

2.2

+2.0

Meter 14 (new set point)

2.1

-1.3

2.7

+1.5

Meter 15

1.8

-0.3

4.5

+2.3

Meter 16

1.8

-0.8

2.3

+0.1

Meter 17

1.9

-1.3

3.9

-3.6

Meter 18 (dens. comp. calc.)

2.5

-0.5

1.6

-0.9

Meter 19

2.9

-0.6

3.8

-2.4

Meter 20

3.2

+1.2

4.7

-2.4

Meter 21

3.4

+1.4

4.6

-2.0

Meter 22

3.5

-2.7

5.3

-4.7

Meter 23

3.7

+0.0

2.0

-0,1

Meter 24

4.2

+0.3

4.7

-2.8

Capacitance MC-meters:

58

The accuracy of the MC meters (95% confidence interval) in laboratory test


with well conditioned material was about 1.5 2.5% units for the resistance
meters and about 2.5% 4.0 % units for the capacitance meters. The
corresponding accuracy of the MC meters in industry test was about 2.0%
5.0% units for the resistance meters and about 3.0% 5.0% units for the
capacitance meters. The average divergence (reading true), i.e. systematic
error, was much lower in the laboratory tests than in the industry tests because
of the constant temperature and the negligible MC gradients in the conditioned
laboratory specimens.

6.2 Effect of the MC meter and wood temperature on the


moisture content readings
The moisture content meters were tested at different temperatures. The tested
wood temperatures were 10 C, +5 C, +20 C, +40 C, 60 C and +70 C. The
meter temperatures were same as the wood temperatures, i.e. 10 C, +5 C and
+70 C. For other wood temperatures, the temperature of the meters was 21 C.
The temperature correction of the resistance type meters was carried out
according to the instructions given by the manufacturers.
Figures 27 and 28 show examples of the accuracy of the temperature
compensation for one resistance type and Figure 29 for one capacitance type
meter. Figures 27 and 29 indicate the temperatures of the wood specimens and
meters as stated above. In the case shown in Figure 28, the resistance type meter
temperature is equal to room temperature while the wood is placed in the freezer
(10 C).

59

30
-10 C, n=48 pcs
5 C, n=48 pcs
20 C, n=108 pcs
40 C, n=108 pcs
60 C, n=108 pcs
70 C, n=16 pcs
-10 C
5 C
20 C
40 C
60 C
70 C

Moisture meter reading (%)

25

20

15

10

0
0

10

15

20

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 27. Temperature test with a resistance MC meter (MC meters temperature according to text
on page 59).

25

Moisture meter reading (%)

20

15
measured, n=48 pcs
calculated
10

0
0

10

15

20

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood(%)

Figure 28. Freeze test with a resistance type MC meter when T(wood) = 10 C and T(meter) =
+15 C.

60

30

-10 C, n=48 pcs


5 C, n=48 pcs
20 C, n=108 pcs
40 C, n=108 pcs
60 C, n=108 pcs
70 C, n=16 pcs
-10 C
5 C
20 C
40 C
60 C
70 C

Moisture meter reading (%)

25

20

15

10

0
0

10

15

20

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 29. Temperature test with a capacitance MC meter (MC meters temperature according to text
on page 59).

In the temperature test the resistance moisture meters showed lower accuracy
and reliability than in room temperature test. In the temperature test at 10 C
the meters gave inaccurate readings. In cold weather, the meters often become
sluggish. When the meters are at room temperature and test materials at 10 C,
the meters work much better (Figure 28). The temperature tests showed that the
measurement accuracy is reduced when the meters are explosed to low or high
temperatures. This means that the pre-programmed temperature corrections do
not apply at extreme temperatures.
Temperature compensation works quite well, but the best results were achieved
at room temperature.

61

The tests proved that the effect of temperature on the capacitance measuring is
very small. It would also appear that operating a capacitance type instrument at
extreme temperatures (10 C, +70 C) does not affect its accuracy.

6.3 Effect of wood density on the moisture content reading


of the MC meter
Both the resistance and capacitance type MC meters were tested with materials
of different densities. The test materials, conditioned in the laboratory, was
Scots pine from Sweden, Norway and Finland. The total number of 582
specimens were divided into three density classes. In the test with the resistance
MC meters, the resistance of the wood was determined. The moisture meter
readings were calculated from the measured resistance values with aid of the
resistance curve of one meter. The results are shown in Figure 30.

25

1. R = 0,969
Moisture meter reading (%)

20
2

2. R = 0,968
2

3. R = 0,963
1. Density (12,12)<450 kg/m3, n=147 pcs

15

2. Density (12,12) 450-550 kg/m3, n=305 pcs


3. Density (12,12)>550 kg/m3, n=130 pcs
Linear (1. Density (12,12)<450 kg/m3, n=147 pcs)
Linear (2. Density (12,12) 450-550 kg/m3, n=305 pcs)

10

Linear (3. Density (12,12)>550 kg/m3, n=130 pcs)

0
0

10

15

20

25

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 30. Effect of density level on MC values calculated from measured resistance values with aid of
resistance curve of one meter.

62

The results confirm that, in the case of electrical resistance type MC meters, the
density of wood has no significant impact on the measured wood moisture
content (see section 3.7).
The effect of density (Scots pine) on the readings of one capacitance meter was
studied. The measured values are plotted in Figure 31. Following regression
analysis the meter reading is presented as a function of real MC and density (r2
= 0.91).
u meas = 0.309 u + 0.0482 u 2 + 0.0157 12.12 + 0.6

(6)

where
umeas is moisture meter reading
u

is actual moisture content of wood

12,12 is density (weight at 12% MC /volume at 12% MC).

25

Moisture meter reading (%)

20

data, density < 450 kg/m3, n=147 pcs


data, density 450 - 550 kg/m3, n=305 pcs
data, density > 550 kg/m3, n=130 pcs
density 400 kg/m3
density 500 kg/m3
density 600 kg/m3

15

10

0
0

10

15

20

25

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 31. Regression curves calculated for three density values (400, 500 and 600 kg/m3). Scots pine
from Finland, Norway and Sweden.

63

Figure 31 shows that density has a very strong effect on the meter readings.
Normal standard deviation of density in a single kiln load is about 30 kg/m3 and
the variation range between minimum and maximum about 100 kg/m3, which
means a MC difference of 1.5 - 2% depending on MC level. The results confirm
that, in order to obtain accurate MC values, it is essential to know the wood
density.

6.4 Effect of sapwood and heartwood on the meter reading


The effect of sapwood and heartwood on the accuracy of both resistance and
capacitance type meters was tested in connection with resistance measurements
on sapwood and heartwood (see section 3.3). The readings for one MC meter
were calculated with the aid of the measured resistance values obtained for
wood. The measurement results with regression lines for sapwood and
heartwood are shown in Figure 32.

25
sapwood
y = ax+b
a = 0.806
b = 1.262
2
r = 0.962
n = 87 pcs

Moisture meter reading (%)

20

15

sapwood, measured
heartwood, measured
sapwood, calculated
heartwood, calculated

10
heartwood
y = ax+b
a = 0.864
b = 0.123
2
r = 0.962
n = 87 pcs

0
0

10

15

20

25

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 32. Effect of sapwood and heartwood of Nordic pine on moisture meter readings of one
resistance type MC meter.

64

At low moisture contents, the difference in meter readings between sapwood


and heartwood is about 0.5 MC % point. At higher moisture content level, the
difference becomes smaller.
The results of capacitance measurements are shown in Figure 33.

Moisture meter reading(%)

25

sapwood
y = ax+b
a = 0.730
b = 5.175
2
r = 0.635
n = 87 pcs

20

sapwood, measured
sapwood, calculated
heartwood, measured
heartwood, calculated

15

10

heartwood

y = ax+b
a = 0.702
b = 4.506
2
r = 0.657
n = 87 pcs

0
0

10

15

20

25

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 33. Effect of sapwood and heartwood of Nordic pine on moisture meter readings of one
capacitance type MC meter.

The capacitance meters indicated significantly different moisture contents for


sapwood and heartwood, even though the MC in sapwood and heartwood was
the same. The finding can probably be explained by the difference in density
between sapwood and heartwood. The density of sapwood of the test specimens
was about 6% (30 kg/m3) higher than that of heartwood. The meters indicated
higher moisture values for sapwood than for heartwood when the same density
value setting was chosen for them. Some meters use a plate measuring about 4
cm x 4 cm, which helps to average out any "sapwood/heartwood effect".
Actually, there is no reason whatsoever why sapwood should have a higher
density than heartwood. If this was the case sapwood density would have to
decrease when it is transformed into heartwood. The "sapwood/heartwood
effect" is purely caused by density differences. In softwood trees, the annual
rings in the sapwood are smaller than in the heartwood. In softwoods small annual
rings have normally a higher density than wide rings.

65

7. Ergonomic test on moisture content


meters
All hand-held moisture meters were tested for their ergonomic properties. Seven
test persons all with some experience of MC measuring with hand-held moisture
meters were chosen for the test. A questionnaire (see appendix C) was used for
the evaluation. The purpose of the test was to determine the practical properties
of the different meters. Because the MC meters cannot be identified by name in
this report, the results of the ergonomic tests are evaluated from a more general
point of view. All ergonomic characteristics were analysed to determine both
positive and negative aspects. A summary of the results is shown in Table 9.
No individual meter possessed solely positive characteristis. Every meter can be
ergonomically improved.
The ergonomics of all MC meters were evaluated by the test persons on a scale
from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent). No MC meter received the best marks for all the
ergonomic properties evaluated in the test. Many meters were graded high (4 =
very good or 5 = excellent) on a number of properties but there was always
something that could be improved. Weighted average marks varied between 2.6
- 3.6. From the point of view of ergonomics, major improvements are required
before a MC meter with excellent ergonomic properties is available.

66

Table 9. Results of ergonomic tests.


Erconomic
properties
Cable connections

Changing
parameters
Display

Keyboard

Hammer design

Damage to wood

Properties
Positive
easy to connect cables to
meter
cable is protected against
damage
ease of manufacture
because of common parts
short and clear
instructions on meter
panel
most important
information
large enough font
background light
audible click on
measurement
ease of use
heavy enough for easy
penetration and
withdrawal of nails
easy and quick nail
change
nail guide system to
prevent breakage
adjustable penetration
depth
hand well protected
against injury
hammer does not turn
no marks with
capacitance meters

Negative
no standard connectors

having to find the right


parameter by trial and
error
too small font

no user instructions
buttons too sensitive

too weak
too heavy/light
too short/long

severe marks (large


holes)
breakage of wood
(cracks)
too large to hold
cumbersome reading
position
creeping

Overall design
Ease of reading

Stability of meters
Other comments

correct dimensions
easy to read even when
inclined
stable
proper electrode material:
no bow, long service life
Isolated nails
recommended

67

8. Standard method for the use and


calibration of hand-held moisture meters
The method proposed here gives guidelines for the use and calibration of handheld moisture meters. To achieve reliable results, it is important that the MC
meters are in good condition. Resistance and capacitance meters are not
necessarily equal in performance under identical conditions. Both types of
meters are to be calibrated with respect to moisture content on an oven-dry mass
basis as determined by the European standard prEN 13183-1.
Timber is a natural raw material with considerable variations in terms of
properties. Chemical constituents and extractives and wood density vary
significantly in the trees from different areas and from one site to another also in
an individual tree. The variations in the density of wood have no significant
effect on the resistance values or measured wood moisture content (readings of
the resistance MC meters). In contrast, the readings of capacitance meters are
strongly influenced by the varying density of wood.
The meters should be tested and calibrated periodically in respect of the wood
material used, either in the laboratory or in the field. Laboratory calibration
procedures are intended to provide reference data under controlled conditions
that include wood and ambient variables. The procedure is designed for fullscale calibration of the meter. Field calibration tests on resistance type meters
for individual species shall be performed only with a meter that has been
standardised and properly compensated for temperature and pin configuration.
Field calibration tests on capacitance type meters shall be performed only with a
meter that has been calibrated against the manufacturer's calibration standard.
The procedure is modification from the ASTM D-standard 4444-92.
The test sample should have the following minimum dimension: thickness 20
mm, width 100 mm, and length 100 mm with the grain. The specimens must be
free from visible irregularities such as knots, decay, reaction wood and resin
concentrations. In laboratory calibration, the specimens shall be divided into at
least 3 groups of 15 each and conditioned at 20 1 C while relative humidity
selected for each of the three EMC levels should be between 7 and 21%. In each
group, the moisture meter reading should be compared with the actual moisture

68

content of wood measured using the oven dry method according to standard
prEN 13183-1.
When moisture meters are tested, it is recommended that the meter
manufacturers instructions regarding the measurement direction and period are
followed. All measurements should be recorded in a protocol, which also should
indicate the following:

type of meter, type of electrode and configuration


reference temperature
applied voltage
wood species and setting for species correction
wood temperature
measuring time
all individual results
arithmetic mean of all measurements.

The moisture meter scale reading must be regressed against the corresponding
moisture content for each specimen in the sample using the linear regression
analysis. The equation for the regression line (Y = a x X + b) shall be used to
establish the correction factor (Y - X) for the meter scale reading (Y) of 7 to 21
inclusive.
In field calibration, the procedure should be used to develop a meaningful
relationship between a meter reading and the actual MC. All field calibrations
must be referenced to oven dry tests to determine precision and bias. Special
care must be taken to minimise errors caused by the effect of wood temperature
on readings. Specimen size for field testing may be full size or sections thereof.
Additionally, it should be noted that electrodes never indicate the average
moisture content but rather local moisture content.

8.1 Resistance type MC meters


The moisture content measuring instruments have to be periodically checked
using a control box with known resistances. The formula 7, rewritten from the

69

equation (1), gives the relationship between resistance and moisture content of
the wood as follows:
u = (log(log(R ) + 1 b) / a

(7)

where
u is wood moisture content
R is known resistance values
a is species coefficient
b is species coefficient.

The coefficients for different species (based on VTTs measurements) are given
in Table 5. A control box with a resistance range from 1 MOhm to 100 GOhm is
very useful. As an example in Table 10 is MC values for Pine, Spruce, and Oak.
Table 10. Check box with known resistance values. Calculated calibration values for Nordic Pine (Pinus
sylvestris), Spruce (Picea abies) in Central Europe and Oak (Quercus spp.) in Central Europe.

Resistance
Position

Pine
Nordic
a = -0.039
b = 1.061

Spruce
Central Europe
a = -0,034
b = 1,014

Oak
Central Europe
a = -0.047
b = 1.079

Control box value

Control box value

Control box value

1 MOhm

27.2

29.8

23.0

10 MOhm

19.5

21.0

16.6

100 MOhm

15.0

15.8

12.6

1 GOhm

11.8

12.1

10.1

10 GOhm

9.3

9.3

8.1

100 GOhm

7.3

6.9

6.4

The deviation between the meter readings and control box values is almost
linear. Adding the deviation to the meter reading gives the correct moisture
content value.

70

Moisture meters are often used in a wide range of climatic conditions. The
reliability of resistance moisture meters can be checked with a series of simple
tests (Instructions for the Brookhuis MC meter). In the first test, a constant
resistance (such as 10 M) is connected to the measuring probe (hammer) and
the moisture content is measured at room temperature (approx. 20 C). The
measured value is entered in Table 11. In the second test, the instrument without
the measuring probe and resistance is placed in a freezer (for example at 10 C)
for 1 to 2 hours. Then the instrument is taken out and re-connected to the
measuring probe and resistance. The moisture content is measured and the value
entered in the table. In the third test, the instrument without measuring probe
and resistance is placed in a oven (for example at +50 C) for 1 to 2 hours, taken
out and re-connected to the measuring probe and resitance. Again, the moisture
content is measured and the value is recorded in the table.
Table 11. Temperature stability test according to the instructions for the Brookhuis MC meter (see text).
Test

Temperature

Measured value

First

+ 20 C

Second

- 10 C

Third

+ 50 C

By comparing the results of these test runs it should show that all the three
measuring values should be same. Otherwise the instrument is influenced by the
temperature and therefore not reliable enough.

8.2 Capacitance type meters


Unlike resistance meters which all operate on the same basic principle of
measuring resistance, the manufacturers of capacitance meters use different
frequencies, sensor shapes and other technical features, which precludes the use
of standard regression according to species.
Field calibration should be carried out on meters calibrated against the
manufacturer's calibration standard and steps should be taken to develop a
meaningful relationship between meter readings and the actual MC.

71

The samples should be chosen in the same way as for the resistance meters. The
samples should be accurately weighed and measured with a calibrated meter
using the manufacturer's recommended setting for the species being measured.
The meter readings should be recorded for each sample and the samples then
oven-dried according to the standard prEN 13183-1.
If the manufacturer has given the regression formula from base voltage to meter
reading, the user can create a simple spreadsheet for reducing the meter reading
at the used setting to the base voltage. Different meter settings can then be
applied in the spreadsheet to give the optimum relationship between the meter
setting and the actual oven-dry MC.
If the manufacturer has not given the formula, then several readings at different
settings around the manufacturers recommended setting must be taken before
oven drying the sample to ensure that the optimum setting can later be
calculated.
Thus, the meter can be tuned for the local timber conditions.

8.3 Checklist for hand-held MC meters


All hand-held MC meters should be checked for correct operation before use.
The checking procedure should be clear and easy to use. It is recommended that
the checklist include the following items:
Checklist for hand-held MC meters
1. Checking the operating condition of MC meters
1.1 check battery voltage
1.2 carry out the checks recommnded by the manufacturer
1.3 check the stability of the meters at different temperatures
2. Calibrating MC meters
2.1 use reference resitances with resistance meters (Calibration Resistance
box)
2.2 use calibration blocks with capacitance meters

72

3. Checking with well-conditioned wood specimens


3.1 use three different moisture classes
3.2 make comparisions with the oven-dried method
Factors to be considered when performing measurements
1. wood temperature
2. moisture gradient in wood
3. the purpose of the measurement

average moisture content

surface moisture content

moisture distribution in wood

maximum moisture content


4. the number of measurements

in accordance with an approved standard (e.g. EN-standard).

73

9. Proposals for improving hand-held


MC meters
9.1 Resistance type MC meters
To get a correct mean MC values with resistance MC meters, it is necessary to
located the right measuring point in the timber. The MC level and moisture
gradient affect the measuring accuracy. To eliminate the effect of the MC
gradient, MC meters should automatically calculate the mean MC value when
the pins are at different depths. The MC curve in the cross section of the timber
is often parabolic in form.
Correct measurement of the wood temperature is also very important. Only two
of the resistance meters tested here provided any means for measuring wood
temperature. All resistance meters used for contractual or quality control
purposes should have a built-in temperature measuring device or should be used
in conjunction with an external temperature measuring device.

9.2 Capacitance type MC meters


What causes problems with capacitance meters is that density in the wood varies
very much. Normal standard deviation of density in a single kiln load is about
30 kg/m3. Wood density has a significant impact on the measured moisture
content. Too high a density value gives too low an MC value, and vice versa.
The density of individual pieces is very difficult to measure in normal operation,
but this problem can be overcome as shown by one manufacturer.
In many cases, the meter manufacturer has chosen an incorrect adjustable factor
value for species density. One manufacturer has come up with a solution to
improve the accuracy of the capacitance MC meter.
On the basis of the results of the industry tests, one manufacturer of capacitance
MC meters has been able to improve the accuracy and reliability of his meter.
New species corrections for pine and spruce were determined based on the
known correct MC and the correction equation as a function of specific gravity

74

and the meter reading. Using these new species corrections, the MC meter
reading values were calculated. However, these new meter readings must be
further corrected with a correction factor that depends on the target MC. The
idea is that the correction factor will be built into the meter. The following
Table 12 shows the accuracy of the readings in the industrial tests before and
after correction.
Table 12. Comparison of the accuracy of readings in the industrial tests before and after correction.
Correction

Percentage of readings within


0.5% of oven-dry readings

Percentage of readings within


1.0% of oven-dry readings

Before

19%

34%

After

35%

64%

The meter readings on the After row were calculated, not measured. This
example shows how the accuracy of meter readings can be improved if the
manufacturer can only determine the right species correction factor.

75

10. Discussion and summary


The conclusions of this study are as follows:
the species corrections (resistance curves) are quite similar for different
countries
wood temperature has a significant effect on the moisture content measured
with resistance type MC-meters (temperature corrections 0.1 - 0.15% units /
C) but no effect on the best capacitance type MC meters
the differences between the properties of sapwood and heartwood have no
significant effect on the moisture content values measured with resistance
meters but some effect on those measured with capacitance meters (a
difference of about 1 % unit) because of the higher density of sapwood.
the type of electrodes used on MC meters have an effect on the resistance
values that correspond to the maximum moisture content deviation of about
1.5% units at a moisture content of 16 - 18%
the distance between electrodes has no effect on the moisture content
measured with resistance type MC meters
measuring directions (parallel or perpendicular to grain) have no effect on
the moisture content measured with either resistance or capacitance meters
wood density has no effect on moisture content measured with resistance
type MC meters but has significant effect on moisture content measured with
capacitance type MC meters.
The accuracy and reliability of the meters depends on the following factors:
measuring temperature (acceptable range is +560 C both for
resistance and capacitance MC meters),
moisture content limits (acceptable range for resistance meters 8 24% and for capacitance meters 5 - 30%)

76

measuring accuracy of the MC-meters (95% confidence interval) in


laboratory tests with well-conditioned material was about 1.5%
2.5% units for the resistance meters and about 2.5% 4.0%
units for the capacitance meters. The corresponding accuracy of MCmeters in industry tests was about 2.0% 5.0 % units for the
resistance meters and about 3.0% 5.0% units for the
capacitance meters.
Ease of use and speed are important in industry. Using resistance
meters correctly to obtain maximum potential accuracy is a slow
process. Capacitance meters are much quicker and easier to use and,
if an accurate meter is chosen, they will provide an accuracy equal to
that of a resistance meter in industrial use.
For contractual and quality control purposes, it is recommended that
a test procedure for industrial conditions would be adopted. This
should cover the range of MC, temperature, species, piece thickness,
drying processes and other such parameters commonly encountered
in industry. Only meters that can offer sufficient accuracy (for
example over 55% of readings within 1% of oven-dry) should be
used for contractual or quality control purposes.

77

References
Apneseth, T. & Hay, M.1992. Test ab baerbare elektriske fuktighetsmlere. NTI
Norsk Treteknisk Institutt, Arbeids rapport. 48 p.
ASTM D 4444 - 92. 1992. Standard Test Methods for Use and Calibration of
Hand-Held Moisture Meters. Pp. 521 - 525.
Brookhuis Micro-Electronics. Test it yourself, brochure. 1 p.
European standard prEN 13183-1, 1998. Round and sawn timber Method of
measurement of moisture content Part 1: Method for determining moisture
content of a piece of sawn timber (Oven-dry method). European Committee for
Standardization. Brussels.
European standard prEN 13183-2, 1998. Round and sawn timber Method of
measurement of moisture content Part 2: Method for estimating moisture
content of a piece of sawn timber (Electrical method). European Committee for
Standardization. Brussels.
Instructions for the MC meters.
Resistance meters:

Aqua - Boy
BES Bollmann combo 200
CSA electronic Delta - 8N
Delmhorst RDM-2S
FMD moisture meter
FME moisture meter
Gann Hydromette RTU600
Gann Hydromette M2050
Protimeter Timbermaster S
Protimeter Timberlogger
Timber Test FM510
WALTTERI
Vanicek VIVA 12
WSAB Lignomat mini X

78

Capacitance meters:

CSA electronic, Delta 2000H


CSA electronic, Delta 2000S
FMW moisture detector
HYGROTEST FM600
Merlin HM8 - WS13
Wagner L612

Kollman, F. F. P. & Ct, Jr. 1968. Principles of Wood Science and


Technology, I Solid Wood. Springer-Verlag, Berlin. Germany. 554 p.
Paajanen, T. 1966. Puun kosteuden mrmisest shkisill mittareilla.
[Measuring the moisture content of wood with electrical moisture meters]. VTT
Tiedotus. Sarja 1 Puu 34. Helsinki. 55 p.
Samuelsson, A. 1990. Resistanskurvor fr elektriska fuktkvotsmtare.
TrteknikCentrum, Rapport L 9006029. Stockholm. 37 p.
Skaar, C. 1988. Wood-Water Relations. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg,
Germany. 274 p. ISBN 3-540-19258-1.
Vermaas, H. F. 1982. D.C. Resistance Moisture Meters for Wood. Part I.
Review of Some Fundamental Considerations. South African Forestry Journal,
No. 121, pp. 88 - 92.

79

80

APPENDIX A

100000
R=10^(10^(ax+b)-1)
a= - 0.036
b=1.015
2
r = 0.951
n = 270 pcs

Resistance (Mohm)

10000

1000

100

10

0,1
0

10

15

20

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 1. Resistance curve for pine (Germany).

Resistance (Mohm)

100000
R=10^(10^(ax+b)-1)
10000 a= - 0.045
b=1.150
2
r = 0.973
1000 n = 90 pcs

100

10

0,1
0

10

15

20

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 2. Resistance curve for maritime pine (France).

A1

25

30

100000
R = 10^(10^(ax+b)-1)
a = - 0.038
b = 1.067
2
r = 0.981
n = 639 pcs

Resistance (Mohm)

10000

1000

100

10

0,1
0

10

15

20

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 3. Resistance curve for spruce (Finland, Norway and Sweden).

100000
R=10^(10^(ax+b)-1)
a= - 0.039
b=1.032
2
r = 0.968
n = 296 pcs

Resistance (Mohm)

10000

1000

100

10

0,1
0

10

15

20

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 4. Resistance curve for birch (Finland and Sweden).

A2

25

30

100000
R=10^(10^(ax+b)-1)
a= - 0.046
b=1.119
2
r = 0.962
n = 117 pcs

Resistance (Mohm)

10000

1000

100

10

0,1
0

10

15

20

25

30

25

30

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 5. Resistance curve for beech (Denmark and Germany).

100000
R=10^(10^(ax+b)-1)
a= - 0.044
b=1.131
2
r = 0.971
n = 120 pcs

Resistance (Mohm)

10000

1000

100

10

0,1
0

10

15

20

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 6. Resistance curve for alder (Sweden).

A3

100000
R=10^(10^(ax+b)-1)
a= - 0.042
b=1.112
2
r = 0.976
n = 63 pcs

Resistance (Mohm)

10000

1000

100

10

0,1
0

10

15

20

Actual moisture content of wood (%)

Figure 7. Resistance curve for larch (Denmark).

A4

25

30

APPENDIX B
Table 1. Confidence intervals (MC level 9 - 17 %) for different MC-meters. Species tested: Pine from
Finland. Norway and Sweden.
Laboratory tests
Types of hand-held moisture meters

95 % confidence
intervals,
% units

average
divergence
(reading true)

Meter 1

1.1

-1.1

Meter 2

1.1

-1.0

Meter 3

1.2

-1.3

Meter 4

1.2

-1.0

Meter 5

1.2

-0.8

Meter 6

1.2

-1.1

Meter 7

1.2

-0.5

Meter 8

1.3

-1.3

Meter 9

1.3

-0.9

Meter 10

1.3

-1.2

Meter 11 (new set point)

1.3

-0.2

Meter 11 (old set point)

1.3

-1.2

Meter 12

1.3

-0.9

Meter 13

1.3

-0.3

Meter 14 (old set point)

1.4

+0.9

Meter 14 (new set point)

1.5

-0.5

Meter 15

1.4

+0.2

Meter 16

1.4

-1.8

Meter 17

1.9

-1.0

Resistance MC-meters:

Capacitance MC-meters:
Meter 18 (dens. comp. calc.)

2.6

-0.4

Meter 19

2.7

+0.0

Meter 20

3.3

+0.4

Meter 21

3.4

-2.4

Meter 22

3.5

+0.7

Meter 23

3.5

-0.3

Meter 24

4.4

+0.9

B1

Table 2. Confidence intervals (MC level 9 - 17 %) for different MC-meters. Species tested: Pine from
Central Europe.
Laboratory tests
Types of hand-held
moisture meters

95 % confidence
intervals,
% units

average
divergence
(reading true)

Meter 1

1.3

-0.2

Meter 2

1.3

-0.7

Meter 3

1.3

-0.6

Meter 4

1.3

-0.5

Meter 5

1.3

-0.5

Meter 6 (new set point)

1.3

-0.2

Meter 6 (old set point)

1.4

+1.2

Meter 7

1.3

-0.9

Meter 8

1.4

-0.5

Resistance MC-meters:

Meter 9 (old set point)

1.4

-0.7

Meter 9 (new set point)

1.4

+0.3

Meter 10

1.4

-0.8

Meter 11

1.5

-0.7

Meter 12

1.7

-0.4

Meter 13

1.7

-0.3

Meter 14

2.1

-0.9

Meter 15 (dens. comp. calc.)

2.9

-1.1

Meter 16

3.0

-0.4

Meter 17

3.1

-0.2

Meter 18

3.3

+0.0

Meter 19

3.4

+0.0

Meter 20

3.5

+0.3

Meter 21

3.8

-2.7

Capacitance MC-meters:

B2

Table 3. Confidence intervals (MC level 9 - 17 %) for different MC-meters. Species tested: Maritime pine
from France.
Laboratory tests
95 % confidence
intervals. % point

average
divergence
(reading true)

Meter 1

0.9

+0.6

Meter 2

1.0

+0.1

Meter 3

1.0

-0.3

Meter 4

1.0

+0.2

Meter 5

1.0

-0.4

Meter 6

1.1

-0.1

Meter 7

1.1

+0.1

Meter 8

1.1

+0.5

Meter 9

1.1

+0.3

Meter 10

1.1

-1.8

Meter 11

1.1

-0.2

Meter 12

1.1

+0.3

Meter 13

1.2

-0.9

Meter 14

1.2

+0.4

Meter 15 (new set point)

1.2

+0.4

Meter 15 (old set point)

1.2

+1.9

Meter 16

1.3

-0.4

Meter 17

2.0

-1.0

Meter 18

2.0

+2.0

Meter 19

2.6

+2.3

Meter 20

2.7

+1.8

Meter 21

2.7

+1.8

Meter 22

2.9

+1.5

Meter 23 (dens. comp. calc.)

2.9

-1.1

Meter 24

3.1

-2.5

Types of hand-held moisture meters

Resistance MC-meters:

Capacitance MC-meters:

B3

Table 4. Confidence intervals (MC level 9 - 17 %) for different MC-meters. Species tested: Spruce from
Finland, Norway and Sweden.
Laboratory tests
95 % confidence
intervals,
% units

average
divergence
(reading true)

Meter 1

0.8

+1.0

Meter 2

0.9

-0.4

Meter 3

0.9

-0.5

Meter 4

1.0

-0.5

Meter 5

1.0

-0.5

Meter 6

1.0

+0.0

Meter 7

1.1

-1.9

Meter 8

1.1

-2.1

Meter 9

1.1

-0.8

Meter 10 (new set point)

1.1

-2.3

Meter 10 (old set point)

1.2

-0.2

Meter 11 (new set point)

1.1

-1.5

Meter 11 (old set point)

1.2

-0.2

Meter 12

1.2

-0.2

Meter 13

1.2

-0.5

Meter 14

1.2

-0.7

Meter 15

1.2

-1.7

Meter 16

1.3

-2.7

Meter 17

1.7

-1.6

Meter 18 (dens.comp.calc.)

2.5

-0.5

Meter 19

2.6

-1.1

Meter 20

3.1

+1.8

Meter 21

3.2

+2.0

Meter 22

3.4

-2.9

Meter 23

3.5

-0.3

Meter 24

3.8

+0.4

Types of hand-held moisture meters

Resistance MC-meters:

Capacitance MC-meters:

B4

Table 5. Confidence intervals (MC level 9 - 17 %) for different MC-meters. Species tested: Spruce from
Central Europe.
Laboratory tests
95 % confidence
intervals,
% units

average
divergence
(reading true)

Meter 1

2.0

+0.5

Meter 2

2.0

+0.9

Meter 3

2.0

-1.0

Meter 4

2.0

-1.3

Meter 5

2.0

+0.6

Meter 6

2.0

+0.6

Meter 7

2.0

+0.6

Meter 8

2.1

-1.2

Meter 9 (new set point)

2.1

-1.4

Meter 9 (old set point)

2.1

+0.7

Meter 10 (new set point)

2.1

-0.6

Types of hand-held moisture meters

Resistance MC-meters:

Meter 10 (old set point)

2.2

+0.8

Meter 11

2.2

+0.3

Meter 12

2.3

+1.0

Meter 13

2.3

-2.5

Meter 14

2.3

+0.2

Meter 15

2.3

+0.4

Meter 16

2.3

+0.1

Meter 17

3.0

+0.5

Meter 18 (dens. comp. calc.)

2.2

-1.0

Meter 19

3.3

-1.6

Meter 20

3.7

+0.4

Meter 21

3.7

-0.7

Meter 22

4.0

+1.4

Meter 23

4.0

+1.2

Meter 24

4.4

-3.2

Capacitance MC-meters:

B5

Table 6. Confidence intervals (MC level 9 - 17 %) for different MC-meters. Species tested: Birch from
Finland and Sweden.
Laboratory tests
Types of hand-held moisture meters

95 % confidence
intervals,
% units

average
divergence
(reading true)

Meter 1

1.7

+1.4

Meter 2

1.7

-0.2

Meter 3

1.8

+1.7

Meter 4

1.9

+1.0

Meter 5

1.9

+1.3

Meter 6

2.0

+1.3

Meter 7

2.0

+0.4

Meter 8

2.0

+1.3

Meter 9

2.0

+0.3

Meter 10

2.0

+1.3

Meter 11

2.0

+0.4

Meter 12

2.1

+0.9

Meter 13

2.1

+1.0

Meter 14

2.2

+0.3

Meter 15

2.5

-0.9

Meter 16

2.7

+1.6

Meter 17

2.8

-1.4

Meter 18

2.8

+2.1

Meter 19

2.9

-1.8

Resistance MC-meters:

Capacitance MC-meters:

Meter 20 (dens.comp. calc.)

2.9

-1.8

Meter 21

3.1

-1.0

B6

Table 7. Confidence intervals (MC level 9 - 17 %) for different MC-meters. Species tested: Beech from
Denmark and Germany.
Laboratory tests
95 % confidence
intervals,
% units

average
divergence
(reading true)

Meter 1

1.2

-0.3

Meter 2

1.3

+0.4

Meter 3

1.3

-1.6

Meter 4

1.4

+0.8

Meter 5

1.4

+0.4

Meter 6

1.4

-0.4

Meter 7

1.5

+1.5

Meter 8

1.5

+0.5

Meter 9

1.5

+0.7

Meter 10

1.5

-0.1

Meter 11

1.5

-1.3

Meter 12

1.5

+1.3

Meter 13

1.6

-0.7

Meter 14

1.6

+0.3

Meter 15

1.6

+0.6

Meter 16

2.0

-2.1

Meter 17 (dens. comp. calc.)

2.0

-2.1

Meter 18

2.3

-0.9

Meter 19

2.4

-1.0

Meter 20

2.5

-0.4

Meter 21

2.5

-1.9

Meter 22

2.8

+2.5

Meter 23

2.8

+2.4

Types of hand-held moisture meters

Resistance MC-meters:

Capacitance MC-meters:

B7

Table 8. Confidence intervals (MC level 9 - 17 %) for different MC-meters. Species tested: Oak from
Denmark, France and Germany.
Laboratory tests
Types of hand-held moisture meters

95 % confidence
intervals,
% units

average
divergence
(reading true)

Meter 1

1.0

-0.3

Meter 2

1.0

+0.8

Meter 3

1.0

+0.7

Meter 4

1.0

+0.7

Meter 5

1.0

+0.8

Meter 6

1.0

+0.9

Meter 7

1.1

+1.1

Meter 8

1.2

+1.7

Meter 9

1.2

+0.5

Meter 10

1.2

+1.5

Meter 11

1.2

+0.3

Meter 12

1.2

+0.7

Meter 13

1.3

+0.8

Meter 14

1.4

+0.0

Meter 15

1.6

+1.6

Meter 16

1.9

+1.1

Meter 17

2.1

-1.3

Meter 18 (dens. comp. calc.)

2.2

-2.2

Meter 19

2.3

-1.3

Meter 20

2.8

-0.9

Meter 21

2.9

+2.3

Meter 22

3.0

+1.8

Meter 23

3.1

-2.2

Resistance MC-meters:

Capacitance MC-meters:

B8

Table 9. Confidence intervals (MC level 9 - 17 %) for different MC-meters. Species tested: Alder from
Sweden.
Alder
Laboratory tests
Types of hand-held moisture meters

95 % confidence
intervals,
% units

average
divergence
(reading true)

Meter 1

0.8

+0.3

Meter 2

0.8

+0.0

Meter 3

0.9

+0.4

Meter 4

0.9

+0.1

Meter 5

0.9

-0.3

Meter 6

1.0

-0.4

Meter 7

1.0

+0.1

Meter 8

1.0

-1.5

Meter 9

1.1

-0.5

Meter 10

1.1

+1.3

Meter 11

1.1

-1.3

Meter 12

1.1

+0.1

Meter 13

1.1

-0.5

Meter 14

1.2

-0.8

Meter 15

1.3

-0.8

Meter 16

2.0

-3.1

Resistance MC-meters:

Capacitance MC-meters:
Meter 17

2.0

-0.8

Meter 18

2.1

+0.7

Meter 19

2.2

-0.4

Meter 20

2.2

+0.5

Meter 21 (dens. comp. calc.)

2.7

-1.2

Meter 22

2.7

-1.4

Meter 23

3.1

-1.8

B9

Table 10. Confidence intervals (MC level 9 - 17 %) for different MC-meters. Species tested: Larch from
Denmark.
Larch
Laboratory tests
95 % confidence
intervals,
% units

average
divergence
(reading true)

Meter 1

0.9

-0.7

Meter 2

1.0

+0.3

Meter 3

1.0

-0.1

Meter 4

1.0

-1.5

Meter 5

1.1

-0.0

Meter 6

1.1

-0.5

Meter 7

1.1

-2.1

Meter 8

1.1

-0.2

Meter 9

1.1

-0.6

Meter 10

1.1

+0.5

Meter 11

1.1

-0.8

Meter 12

1.2

+0.2

Meter 13

1.3

-0.7

Meter 14

2.2

-1.8

Meter 15 (dens. comp. calc.)

1.8

-1.0

Meter 16

3.1

-1.7

Meter 17

3.1

-2.5

Meter 18

3.9

-3.0

Meter 19

4.0

-2.6

Meter 20

4.2

-2.2

Meter 21

4.5

-2.2

Types of hand-held moisture meters

Resistance MC-meters:

Capacitance MC-meters:

B10

Table 11. Confidence intervals (MC level 7 - 25 %) for different MC-meters. Species tested: Pine from
Finland and Sweden.
Industry tests
Types of hand-held moisture meters

95 % confidence

average

intervals,

divergence

% units

(reading true)

Meter 1

1.4

+1.2

Meter 2 (new set point)

1.5

+1.4

Resistance MC-meters:

Meter 2 (old set point)

2.6

+3.2

Meter 3

1.9

+0.4

Meter 4

2.1

+0.4

Meter 5

2.2

+0.7

Meter 6

2.2

+0.6

Meter 7

2.4

+0.9

Meter 8

2.4

+1.1

Meter 9

2.5

-0.2

Meter 10

2.5

+1.1

Meter 11

2.6

-0.7

Meter 12 (old set point)

2.6

+1.7

Meter 12 (new set point)

2.7

+2.5

Meter 13

2.8

+1.0

Meter 14

3.4

-1.8

Meter 15

4.3

-4.1

Meter 16

5.4

+2.7

Meter 17 (dens. comp. calc.)

1.9

+0.3

Meter 18

1.9

-0.2

Meter 19

4.2

-1.9

Meter 20

5.2

-2.9

Meter 21

5.2

-2.5

Meter 22

5.3

-2.7

Meter 23

5.9

-4.2

Capacitance MC-meters:

B11

Table 12. Confidence intervals (MC level 7 - 25 %) for different MC-meters. Species tested: Spruce from
Finland and Sweden.
Industry tests
Types of hand-held moisture meters

95 % confidence

average

intervals,

divergence

% units

(reading true)

Meter 1

0.7

+1.2

Meter 2

0.8

+1.5

Meter 3 (new set point)

0.9

-0.3

Meter 3 (old set point)

0.9

+2.5

Meter 4

0.9

+0.3

Meter 5 (new set point)

0.9

+0.5

Resistance MC-meters:

Meter 5 (old set point)

1.0

+2.2

Meter 6

1.1

+0.4

Meter 7

1.1

+1.3

Meter 8

1.2

+0.9

Meter 9

1.4

+1.6

Meter 10

1.5

+1.5

Meter 11

1.5

-0.4

Meter 12

1.6

+1.3

Meter 13

1.7

+0.8

Meter 14

2.0

-2.7

Meter 15

3.0

-1.1

Meter 16

3.6

-1.3

Meter 17 (dens. comp. calc.)

1.4

-1.4

Meter 18

1.7

-0.4

Meter 19

2.0

-3.3

Meter 20

2.6

-1.3

Meter 21

2.8

-1.6

Meter 22

3.0

-5.5

Meter 23

3.1

-3.1

Capacitance MC-meters:

B12

APPENDIX C

Qualification of the properties of moisture meters


Surveyor:
Meter:
Date:

Grading system: 1 = poor, 2 = adequate, 3 = good, 4 = very good, 5 = excellent

Property

Explanation
Good/bad aspects

Grade

Cable connections
Changing parameters
Display
Keyboard
Hammer design
Pin marks
Overall design
Readability
Stability of meters

Comments

C1

C2

Published by

Series title, number and


project code of publication
Vuorimiehentie 5, P.O.Box 2000, FIN-02044 VTT, Finland
Phone internat. +358 9 4561
Fax +358 9 456 4374

VTT Publications 420


VTTPUBS420

Author(s)

Forsn, Holger & Tarvainen, Veikko


Title

Accuracy and functionality of hand held wood moisture


content meters
Abstract
The main task of VTT in this EU project was to test and improve the reliability and performance of moisture content
meters. A total of 16 resistance type and 6 capacitance type hand-held moisture meters were included in the test series.
Test samples of the most important European species (pine, spruce, birch, oak, beech, alder, larch) were obtained
from all over Europe. The total survey included about 2,700 pieces for comparative testing. The test material was
conditioned to three different moisture contents (8 - 10%, 12 - 14% and 16 - 18%). The moisture gradients in the test
specimens were small due to the long conditioning time lasting at least 1 year.
The effects of various factors, such as moisture content, species, and temperature, on the electrical resistance of
conditioned wood were studied. In the laboratory tests, the resistance moisture content curves for different species
from different countries were determined using conditioned wood material.
The species corrections (resistance curves) are quite similar for different counties. Only the resistance curve for
Maritime Pine differs clearly from the other resistance curves for the pine species originating from the different
countries.
The wood temperature corrections are about 0.1 - 0.15% units/C which has to be considered when the moisture
content of wood is measured at temperatures other than 20 C.
The other properties of wood, such as as sapwood/heartwood and density, do not have a significant effect on
resistance values. There were no significant resistance differences related to the type of electrodes, distances between
electrodes, and different measuring direction.
The commercial instruments for the determination of wood moisture content were tested with respect to accuracy,
reliability and ergonomy. The moisture meters were tested both under laboratory and industrial conditions. Most of the
resistance meters show a systematic deviation from the actual moisture content because of incorrect MC resistance
curves. When the MC was lower than 10%, the readings of all the resistance meters tended to creep.
The measuring accuracy of the MC meters (95 % confidence interval) in laboratory tests with well conditioned
material was about 1.5 2.5% units for the resistance meters and about 2.5% 4.0% units for the capacitance
meters. The corresponding accuracy of MCmeters in industry test was about 2.0 % 5.0% units for the resistance
meters and about 3.0% 5.0% units for the capacitance meters.
Keywords

wood, timber, moisture meters, moisture content, measuring instruments, reliability, tests, electrical resistance,
temperature, species correction, pine, spruce, birch, oak, beech, alder, larch
Activity unit

VTT Building Technology, Building Materials and Products, Wood Technology,


Puumiehenkuja 2 A, P.O.Box 1806, FIN02044 VTT, Finland
ISBN

Project number

9513855813 (soft back ed.)


9513855821 (URL: http://www.inf.vtt.fi/pdf/)
Date

September 2000

Language

English

Name of project

R0SU00371
Pages

79 p. + app. 17 p.

Price

Commissioned by

EC, Centre for Metrology and Accreditation


(Mittakeskus MIKES), VTT
Series title and ISSN

VTT Publications
12350621 (nid.)
14550849 (URL: http://www.inf.vtt.fi/pdf/)

Sold by

VTT Information Service


P.O.Box 2000, FIN02044 VTT, Finland
Phone internat. +358 9 456 4404
Fax +358 9 456 4374